THE STORY SO FAR: Having fallen out spectacularly with his daughter Goneril, Lear sends the disguised Kent ahead to tell his other daughter Regan that he is coming to stay with her. Regan and her husband Cornwall, however, have gone to visit the Earl of Gloucester. Kent follows them there, where he is about to bump into Goneril's own messenger, Oswald.
Oswald gets beaten up again! If you're playing the Oswald Drinking Game, take a drink. In fact, take two drinks, as he gets beaten up while trying to deliver a letter.
In this scene Kent unleashes what is probably the most extensive insult in all of Shakespeare. Here it is in its entirety:
[Thou art] a knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch: one whom I will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition.
Meanwhile Oswald, who doesn't recognize Kent as the fellow who beat him up back at Goneril's place, is just totally confused. Come on, you have to feel for Oswald.
Kent, meanwhile, acts like a complete idiot. Here is his thought process: "What the best thing to do in the midst of a volatile and fragile family disagreement? I know! I'll beat up some guy and then insult lots of people! Nothing will go wrong!"
He totally deserves those stocks.
Lear is a bit slow on the uptake.
This scene a bit oddly disjointed. In the text I'm working from (Modern Library's RSC edition, based exclusively on the Folio text), it is all one scene, but Edgar's sudden appearance while Kent is sleeping in the stocks is often spun off into its own scene.
Anyways, Edgar decides that the best way to avoid getting arrested by his father is to disguise himself as a lunatic madman. However, this isn't just a surface disguise. As we shall shortly see, Edgar gets really into it, to the point where you really start to worry about him.
Tune in again on Monday, when Lear throws another HUGE tantrum! Plus I plan to have something special on Wednesday to celebrate Shakespeare's 450th birthday. FUN TIMES!